Day: July 3, 2006

Semi-Final Predictions

Right. Down to the last four, then. An all-European semi-final line-up has certainly upset most of the pundits’ pre-tournament predictions (even down to little old me, tippity-tapping away my keyboard with only a few people paying any attention), but it has proved a couple of things: firstly, the all-conquering power of the South America was over-rated. A quick dissection Brazil and Argentina’s performances shows that, rather than simultaneously having bad days at the office, they under-performed for longer than they, well, performed. Argentina fooled us all by beating Serbia 6-0, but that was as good as it got for them. They got a little lucky against Mexico, and the luck ran out against Germany. Brazil weren’t properly tested until they played France, and then they were tactically out-fought. But I digress. Germany-Italy: The Germans have been outstanding so far. No question about it. Meanwhile, though, Italy have trundled along, grinding out results without ever looking spectacular. I am rather of the mind that the Germans will struggle to break down this Italian defence, though. Podolski has got through a ropey spell at the start of the tournament, and Ballack has been the outstanding player of the whole tournament so far. The key for them is patience. They need a big performance – not only for themselves, but from the crowd as well. Expectation levels are rising daily now. The...

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Stars In Their Eyes

So, David Beckham has resigned as England captain. This has surprised me somewhat. Football captains don’t usually resign. They retire from playing, or they retire from international football, or they get dropped, but they don’t usually quit. This is more the reserve of cricket, where the captain is in charge of a team picked by a board of selectors – more of a “managerial” position. His critics will say that Beckham again is showing signs of having ideas above his station – that he thinks that he’s Sven’s number two. But then, Beckham’s critics have always had rather a lot to say for themselves. There was no way that David Beckham was going to have a successful World Cup. His deriders have long since decided that he has outlived his usefulness, and that wouldn’t have changed no matter how many inch-perfect crosses he had slung in against Paraguay et al. He could have scored a hat-trick of free-kicks against Ecuador, and each one would have been the goalkeeper’s fault. And he could have put twenty inch perfect fifty yard passes straight onto Wayne Rooney’s right foot, but he’d still have been criticised as being a stooge in Sven’s long ball game. He really couldn’t win. Beckham, however, has fulfilled an almost unique role on the pitch for England for the last few years or so. He’s a kicker –...

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